When Mary Clatenbaugh and her family moved to Lochearn in 1947, they paid less than $10,000 for a brand new three-bedroom brick-and-clapboard home on a quiet street. Since then, the prices of homes in this neighborhood have changed a great deal -- but not much else around here has.
"Lochearn was a wonderful place to raise a family," says Ms. Clatenbaugh, 75.
Unlike many other Baltimore County neighborhoods that have either deteriorated, sprawled or become busy thoroughfares over the decades, Lochearn is still coveted as a family neighborhood that's reasonably well-insulated from the hustle and bustle of nearby Liberty Road and the Baltimore Beltway.
"This is one of the few communities inside the Beltway that has tremendous old oak trees," says Larry Williams, a state employee who brought his family to Lochearn nine years ago.
"It offers a sense of the country."
Reginald Crews, who lives just a few blocks from the Williamses, has lived in Lochearn for 10 years, and he expects to stay there with his wife and two young children at least another decade.
"The neighborhood is family-oriented," he says. "We've met all our neighbors, from the beginning of the block to the end."
One of the enduring attractions of the Lochearn community, which is bounded by Liberty Road to the south and Campfield Road and Patterson Avenue to the west and east, respectively, is that home prices remain affordable.
Prices tend to range from $80,000 at the low end to $120,000 at the high end. Yet the neighborhood is just a stone's throw from the slightly tonier Sudbrook, where many older homes top $200,000.
Although in-filling over the last 20 years has caused some crowding among lots, the architecture is eclectic, with brick Colonials and Cape Cods, stucco and contemporary shingled houses all mixed together.
Many homes have quarter-acre lots -- offering plenty of room for swing sets and backyard barbecues.
Affordability is one reason there's been so much buying and selling lately in Lochearn, says Long & Foster Realtor Danny Cohen.
"The homes are sellable and priced right," he said.
"And it's a comfortable area."
Mr. Cohen notes that the area is undergoing a kind of rebirth, as new families come in to replace longtime owners.
Ms. Clatenbaugh, for example, expects that her home will be going on the market in the near future.
The other significant change in Lochearn is that the community is more racially diverse than in past decades, when it was nearly all-white. In some areas of Lochearn, the population today is two-thirds black.
Come back to swim
One testament to Lochearn's enduring appeal is that even families that moved away years ago return summer after summer to enjoy the Lochearn Community Club swimming pool.
The facility, tucked away off leafy Campfield Road, was built nearly 40 years ago, and is a warm-weather magnet that draws many residents who live within walking distance.
Lochearn has virtually no more buildable lots.
The area's scarce open spaces are either informal parks or designated flood-plain areas. That means the already aging housing stock will require considerable maintenance and renovation as the years pass.
But the chances of Lochearn remaining a stable, reasonably quiet neighborhood -- albeit one where home prices do not appreciate all that much -- are good. There's no commercial strip; all that has been siphoned off to Liberty and Reisterstown roads.
The main commercial presence, in fact, is the Augsburg Lutheran Village for independent living, and the adjacent nursing home, which was once an orphanage.
For first-time homebuyers, or for those thinking about moving from a rowhouse, Lochearn is an appealingly old-fashioned neighborhood enclave just west of the city line.
Population: 5,206 (Baltimore County 1992 Census update)
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 30 minutes.
Public schools: Milbrook Elementary, Pikesville Middle, Woodlawn High
Shopping: Metro Food Market; Giant at Milford Mill
Points of interest: Lochearn Community Club
ZIP code: 21207
Average price of single-family home: $95,379*
* Based on 24 sales in 1995 through Mid-Atlantic Real Estate information Technologies Inc.